Muses (Gr. ), in classical mythology, the goddesses originally of song, and afterward of all kinds of poetry and of the arts and sciences. According to the earliest legends, they had their principal seats in Pieria on Mt. Olympus and in Boeotia on Mt. Helicon. Homer styles them the Olympian, and Hesiod the Heliconian; according to the latter, however, they were born on Olympus, and dwelt at a short distance from the pinnacle on which* Jupiter was enthroned, whence they visited Helicon to bathe in Hippocrene, and celebrate their choral dances around the altar on the top of the mountain. K. 0. Muller infers, from the fact that the worship of the muses originally flourished on the same mountain which was represented as the common abode of the gods, that it was the poets of that region, the ancient Pierian minstrels, whose imagination created and arranged the Olympian council. Elsewhere they were chiefly honored as the nymphs of fountains. They were commonly esteemed the daughters of Jupiter and Mnemosyne, but were also called daughters of Ocelus and Terra (Uranus and Ge), of Pierus and a Pimplcian nymph, of Jupiter and either Plusia, Moneta, or Minerva, of Apollo and Plusia, and of Aether and Terra. Their number was variously given at first as either three, four, or seven, but was at length established and recognized as nine throughout Greece. Hesiod first states the names of all the nine, by which they are usually designated: Clio, the muse of history; Euterpe, of lyric poetry; Thalia, of comedy; Melpomene, of tragedy; Terpsichore, of choral dance and song; Erato, of erotic poetry; Polyhymnia, of the sublime hymn; Urania, of astronomy; and Calliope, of epic poetry.
In Homer as in later authors they sing festive songs at the banquets of the gods, and are invoked by mortal poets to bring before the mind the events which they have to relate, and to confer the gift of poetry. They punished Thamyris, who had presumed to excel them, with blindness; stripped the sirens, who had ventured on a contest with them, of their winirs; and metamorphosed the nine daughters of Pierus, who sought to rival them, into birds. Though usually regarded as virgin divinities, the greatest mythical bards, such as Linus and Orpheus, were called their sons. Apollo, as the god of the lyre, led their choir, and they themselves had the gift of prophecy. They were worshipped with libations of water or milk and honey, received various designations from the poets according to the places that were sacred to them, and were represented each with particular attributes in works of art.